- Clockwise from top left: Sean Cullen, Ben Paul Williams, and Kathy McCafferty, in rehersal for “Memoirs of a Forgotten Man” running June 1-16 at Shadowland Stages in Ellenville.
Shadowland Stages got its start in 1985 when a group of New York City theater artists moved to Ellenville. They occupied a well-worn 1920s Art Deco vaudeville/movie theater. Eventually the renovated the space, which is 202now their main stage. The 179-seat venue has been presenting live theater to Ulster County audiences for 35 years, keeping tickets affordable and programming a mix of classic, contemporary, and new plays.
Shadowland has recently joined the prestigious National New Play Network, dedicating themselves to developing new work alongside a diverse list of theaters around the country. "We are honored to join the membership of this important organization," says Brendan Burke, Shadowland's producing artistic director. "Shadowland Stages has a long history of embracing new works. The new resources that the Network provides us will be invaluable to our mission, and our being granted membership is a flattering recognition of our work."
The first National New Play Network production at Shadowlands will be D.W. Gregory's, "Memoirs of a Forgotten Man." June 1 is opening night, and the play will run through June 16. Based on an actual communist Russia case study, The Mind of a Mnemonist, by clinical psychologist A. R. Luri, the historically accurate play is set in both 1930s Leningrad and 1950s Moscow, offering a deep dive into the Stalin-shrouded darkness of the Soviet Union.
The main character, Alexi, is a Soviet journalist who, much to his demise, has a vivid memory bank as a result of a condition called synesthesia. Psychologist Natayla Berezina is intrigued by his affliction and conducts a series of interviews during the years leading up to Stalin's purges. Once Stalin dies, Natalya attempts to revive her career by revisiting her notes on Alexi's bizarre condition. Both Alexi and Natalya are deemed a threat by the propaganda police, and Soviet censor Kreplev steps in to review Natalya's work before it can be shared with her peers.
The days of Stalin and the wreckage he left behind weren't that long ago, and the topic of "public truth," in any form, is wildly relevant in our current times. As we currently decipher fake news and false truths under perpetual surveillance in our everyday life, the subject matter strikes an eerie chord. Since "Memoirs of a Forgotten Man" is a historically accurate play set in early Soviet Russia, it may behoove theater patrons to brush up on the who's-who of the era, to keep pace with the material.
Shadowland Stages has been an integral part of our areas arts scene for over 35 years, and their recent association with National New Play Network ushers them into the future. There are only six theaters in the state that are members of NNPN: three in the city, two in Rochester, and one in Buffalo. Shadowland's new association with NNPN not only supports the development of new works and extends the life of new plays, it brings fresh theater to our doorstep.
"Memoirs of a Forgotten Man" runs June 1-16 at Shadowland Stages. Shadowlandstages.org